Different Kinds Of Books

I list here some different kinds of book with my - probably biased -

estimates of how time-consuming and difficult it is to write them.

1 The popular science book (e.g. texts such as those by Oliver Sacks, Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould):

These books are extremely easy to read, but they are probably much more difficult to write than it might seem. There might be much more polishing of the text than meets the eye. However it is done, it is beyond most of us.

2 The edited collection of previously published papers by the same author:

These books can only be written by well-established authors who want to show their contribution to the field. These books may, or may not, be suitable for course texts.

3 The edited collection of previously published papers written by different authors:

These books require much less writing by the editors, and the task is perhaps made more enjoyable if there are two or more of them who can share the debate about what to include. There is an opportunity here to include famous papers, but part of the art lies in avoiding large payments for copyright fees. These books sometimes form the basis for a course textbook. They may, or may not, suit all students on other similarly named courses in other institutions.

4 The edited collection of original chapters written by several different authors:

These books take longer to produce — not all of the potential authors deliver their chapters on time. These books have the advantage, though, of being more up to date than books in 2 or 3 above, but their contents might not be so outstanding, or well-known.

5 The conference collection:

Here many authors are often involved and consequently there is more room for delay. However, the conference collection (if it is not delayed in publication) can present the state of the art, particularly in new and developing fields.

6 The handbook:

The handbook combines categories 4 and 5. Here, the book is usually larger and the multiple chapters are original ones (usually reviews), written by acknowledged experts in the field. The handbook usually has a long gestation period and wider coverage and is destined for the library shelves rather than the personal library.

7 The individually authored textbook:

This is perhaps the most satisfying kind of book for an individual to write but it can be a hard slog. It is easier if you have a number of previous contributions to draw on.

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